WEST LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Thousands of restaurants have closed for good during the pandemic, but in West Los Angeles customers have been flocking to a neighborhood favorite that recently reopened.
“This is our go to spot,” Adrian Buelna, a customer, said. “Late, late night after shows. First time back. Looks good too!”
Buelna and his friend, Jeremy Jones, have been coming to the iconic burger joint Big Tomy’s in West L.A. for a decade, but when a fire burned it down two years ago, nobody knew if they’d ever reopen — especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Over the last eight months or so, I’ve seen tons of businesses constantly closing doors,” Jones said. “For them to go through what they’ve been through and still be able to reopen their doors, it’s awesome. It gives a lot of people hope even.”
When 67-year-old John Livanis reopened last month, Juan Sanchez could not wait to order.
“When this place came back, a lot of people were so excited,” he said. “I remember on opening day, there were so many people here.”
Sanchez, like many, grew up eating the famous chili cheeseburgers.
“As soon as they find out that we’re reopen, I have people that come from San Diego, from Whittier, from East L.A.,” he said.
It was the first time in years that the Greek immigrant said he felt hope.
“This is everything,” he said. “This is my life and their life.”
When the fire destroyed the business, Livanis paid his employees for two months out of his own pocket.
“They are family to me,” he said. “They are not just workers, and they have kids — grandkids some of them.”
And while Livanis admitted he loses sleep over his decision to reopen in the middle of a pandemic with big debts to repay and a family with a special needs son to support, his loyal customers keep him going.
“As long as people keep coming and they happy, I think I’m gonna make them, who knows for how long, but I’m gonna try my best,” he said.
The restaurant might be all new, but the menu is the same as are the hours — even if people can’t stay inside to eat.